Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cody Bellinger Goes 5-For-5 versus Athletics, But Is He Fully Back?

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Cody Bellinger had a perfect game last night versus the Athletics, going five for five with a double and a run. The last time he went 4-4 was during his MVP season in 2019, and this is just the first time in his career of having a 5-5 on the scorebook. Bellinger was seeing the ball as well as anyone, and took a quarter of the team’s total hits as a result. This is just a continuation of Bellinger’s recent success, as he is currently on a seven-game hit streak, where four of the thirteen hits are for extra-base hits. Needless to say, he has been the bat the Cubs have needed to wake up because he is hitting in the four-spot in the lineup 85% of games. The question that many Cubs fans are starting to wonder is, is Cody Bellinger…back?

The definition of “back” in the sports world is different from person to person. Most of the time it’s just a word thrown around nonchalantly and just means someone is playing well. In this case, Cody Bellinger being “back” refers to his MVP-caliber season back in 2019, and it’s not crazy to think that. Well, at least there’s a possibility of it being true. 

As it stands currently, Bellinger is batting a .310 average, 10 RBIs, six walks, a .517 OPS, and just nine strikeouts. From those nine strikeouts, four came from the first series against the Brewers, so he’s only had 5 since then. These numbers are down from where he once was on the Dodgers, specifically his MVP season, but they aren’t incredibly far off, just a little far off. Bellinger fans have to remember, this current Cubs team is less talented than the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers, who ended up being the one-seed in the Postseason. The difference in talent is going to hinder Bellinger’s numbers, even slightly, due to the fact that there is much more pressure for him to have good at-bats and think harder about each plate appearance, unlike his old Dodgers team where they would be up by ten runs going into the 6th inning every other game. The pressure of being that big bat in the lineup appears to be easing up, which is exactly what Cubs’ fans want to see going forward.

The most interesting stat of Bellinger’s 2023 season are his home/away splits, where the difference in hitting is remarkable and worth noting. At home, he is batting .182 with just six hits in thirty-three at-bats, along with seven strikeouts. Away, a stellar .480 and a .800 slugging, and just two strikeouts. Since day one, fans have said that the nervousness of playing at the federal landmark Wrigley Field with nearly sold out crowds every game is far different than Dodger Stadium, where Bellinger has played his entire professional career up until this point. That could absolutely be the issue, where the pressure is a lot to handle, and thus leads to poor numbers like Bellinger has right now. Doubters will say, “Dansby Swanson doesn’t seem to have a problem,” but that’s unfair to compare two different people with how they deal with the animosity Wrigley Field creates. If Bellinger is able to get his grove during homestands, and take advantage of the hulking winds of Chicago, there could be a drastic increase to all of his numbers soon.

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In no way should this article be interpreted as, “Cody Bellinger is going to win another MVP this year,” because that just is not the case. Now, the conversation about whether Bellinger is turning his career around and back to being a top 100 MLB player certainly needs to be had. Speaking on behalf of most Cubs fans, Bellinger was one of, if not the, player they were most excited to watch this year, and he is matching that level of excitement. The past few outings for him have been spectacular and fun to watch, and the team is working off of his success, no doubt. The question is, what is Cody Bellinger’s ceiling this season?

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